Question: Calves in the Snowstorm

Comment on Calves in the Snowstorm

I narrowed my choices down to C & E here. However I picked E because I used the rule that "have" is plural with the word calves.

Any advice on when to use have/had as plural/singular instead of present/past tense?
gmat-admin's picture

"Had" can be both singular and plural, which means it tough. The trick is to focus more on the issues of tense when you see the word "had."

Answer choice E suggests that the same cows that were killed last week may be receiving vaccinations up to the present day.

Couldn't option C be interpreted as the calves received their vaccine last week and the snowstorm was yesterday or just anytime from last week to now? I don't like how C has the phrase "last week had received the vaccine". Seems a little ambiguous if taken literally.
gmat-admin's picture

Yes, that's how we should interpret answer choice C.

Two actions occurred in the past (killing/injuring and receiving)
The killing/injuring of the cows is a completed event in the past. So, we use the simple past tense (RECEIVED)

The receiving (of the vaccine) is a completed past event that occurred BEFORE the killing/injuring. So, we use the past perfect tense (HAD RECEIVED)
More on past perfect tenses here:

Here's a similar question from the Official Guide:

Does that help?

But isn't the original sentence trying to say that the snowstorm was last week and the calves received their vaccine some time before that? The way C is worded, it seems like that could be true, or what I said in my original comment could be true, making option C ambiguous. Am I missing something?
gmat-admin's picture

I can see your point. However, I think the degree to which C is ambiguous is pretty small. "last week's storm" and "the storm last week" are pretty close in meaning.

The thing with the GMAT is that, in many cases, we're not necessarily looking for the perfect answer; we're looking for least bad answer.

You'll see that the official question that I linked about, suffers from the same level of potential ambiguity.

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